Judge, Deceased Person
1908 – 2007
Who was Jane Bolin?
Jane Matilda Bolin LL.B. was the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to join the New York City Law Department. She became the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was sworn into the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court in 1939.
Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was the youngest of four siblings. Her father, Gaius Charles Bolin, was the first African-American to graduate from Williams College and became a lawyer. Her mother, Matilda Ingram Bolin, a white Englishwoman, died when Bolin was 8 years old.
Bolin was educated at high school in Poughkeepsie, and was one of two black students in her class at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Most of the white students ignored her, and she lived off campus with the other black student. A careers adviser at Wellesley College tried to discourage her from applying to attend Yale Law School due to her race and gender. She graduated in 1928 in the top 20 in her class, and joined Yale Law School, where she was the only black student, and one of only three women.